When did Englewood become BoroughPark? When did Rabbi Shmuel Goldin and the RCA become chasids? In a wonderful moment for Orthodox Jewry, this weekend marked the inaugural graduation ceremony of New York’s Yeshivat Maharat – and three women were ordained as members of the clergy. They underwent training, passed rigorous tests, and are now teachers of Jewish law and spirituality.
As a speaker at graduation explained “..you have studied and immersed yourselves in God’s Torah, mastered halakha, and honed your pastoral skills. You interned in shuls, on college campuses, and you taught adults and children. You have chosen to walk in God’s way, and you have kept God’s charge. Walk towards justice. Walk with integrity. Walk boldly, with courage and pride.”
Yet, the leadership of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) shamefully condemned the ceremony. The President of RCA, Englewood, New Jersey Rabbi Shmuel Goldin said “We cannot accept the ordination of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of their title.” Ignoring the fact that Sarah and Miriam were ordained prophets, Goldin, is clearly out of touch with the masses of Orthodox Jewry and out of touch with his own modern community of Englewood. When Rabbi Goldin became head of the RCA, he described his main role as “making the RCA more relevant to the Jewish community at large… as opposed to the way we’re often perceived.” He added “part of vibrant Judaism is dealing with change by facing challenges. That makes you relevant. I want the RCA to be relevant to Judaism and Jewry, and we can only do that by facing the world squarely.”
But, as is the way of Englewood, let’s talk tachlis. Who is better to discuss family purity issues a rabbi, or a female Jewish leader? Who should determine if a woman is in niddah or not? When there’s a female convert, which of the RCA Rabbis is observing the woman dip naked into the mikvah? Even she is comfortable, should men (even Rabbis) observe her? Esther Jungreis for many years has done amazing work – with the rightful approval of the right-wing Orthodox world. What is the difference between the graduating women and Ms. Jungreis other than the fact that she is married to a Rabbi. Are women holy because they marry Rabbis? Are women the property of their husband because they marry a Rabbi? Absurd thinking from the world of Rabbi Goldin – who admitted he could not point to any particular religious law against ordaining women.
The women graduating Yeshiva Maharat are learned, accomplished, smart young women who will lead the Jewish community. Each of the graduates is now employed by an Orthodox congregation – and will undoubtedly be strong with the 50 percent of the Jewish people on the other side of the mechitzah. Even for Orthodox Jews, Men Are from Mars and Women are From Venus.
Mazel Tov to the graduating class of Yeshivat Maharat. As was said at the beautiful graduation ceremony to the graduates, “As you walk, remember that you are not alone. Ruth, Rachel, and Abby. Know that as you march forward, we– all of us—this entire community, walks with you.” Indeed, for Orthodox Jewish men and women this is true.
Ronn Torossian is a Public Relations Executive. He is involved with many organizations in the Jewish community. For full disclosure, he has previously represented the RCA.